Martyr’s Day in India is for the people of that country to pay homage to all those who have died in service to the country. This year the celebration is marked by nationwide protests against Bt brinjal, a genetically engineered seed which has been at the center of a huge controversy there. Fasting and candlelight vigils are part of the protests, while heavy corporate and governmental pressure is being exerted to release Bt brinjal for human comsumption.
Indians in the US, Europe, and around the world will join the “so called” satyagraha, today. The goal? Persuading the government into stopping the cultivation of this controversial bio-engineered product, which by many scientific accounts may not be safe for human consumption. The genetically modified vegetable, the protesters claim, is proven safe for human consumption. The nationwide fast is being organised by the Coalition for a GM Free India. Events have been planned for 64 cities and 14 states by Greenpeace the international environmental organization.
Jantar Mantar, in the capital, will be the site of the protest there, while protests in other cities will be held in front of statues of Mahatma Gandhi, for whom Martyr’s Day was dedicated. Concerns over bio-engineered products grows as companies like Monsanto and other huge conglomerates toward which governments and testing laboratories have shown bias.
Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal (PDF), popularly known as Bt Brinjal, is theoretically designed to resist insects via the insertion of a gene [Cry 1Ac] from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into Brinjal. This gene is a toxin which apparently disrupts the digestive processes of insects who feed on Brinjal, thereby killing them. In short, a food stuff commodity which is an insecticide? Mahyco, India’s top seed company, has created Bt Brinjal in conjunction with American conglomerate Monsanto. According to any number of scientific experts, Bt Brinjal has not actually been proven safe for human consumption. At least one independent research scientists has declared Bt Brinjal a significant risk to humans, while the history of GM (genetically modified) commodities in India is checkered by similar doubt and controversy like the BT Cotton example.
Monsanto’s GM creations, especially Bt Cotton, are still under heave scrutiny by independent labs and other interested parties. In some cases, Monsanto’s strains actually produced less yield than non-GM strains too. The farmers in India, as well as the environmental community, have grown suspicious of large corporate marketing campaigns, and now the Indian government’s ability to objectively scrutinize these companies and products. Despite the evident failures of Bt Cotton, the Indian government is still trying to sell it to force it on farmers apparently.
As for Monsanto? A story of a farmer whose fields were contaminated by pollen from a nearby field where Monsanto GM crops reveals a lot about that company. Apparently Monsanto is suing the farmer for not paying the company for GM canola which infested his natural variety. The farmer never signed a contract with Monsanto, and did not want the GM variant. Imagine 20 years down the road when Monsanto’s breed has gone effectively viral and taken over adjacent field, after adjacent field? Hugh Grant, the CEO of the supposed “new Monsanto”, has his PR work cut out for him, not only because of his uncanny resemblance to Al Bundy, but if Monsanto’s GM products go as far south as Monsanto’s chemical products.
Think of the expanse of India now. A sort of horror story in the making if the reports are true. We will keep you updated and do some more research, but think about this. If the science behind Bt Brinjal is wrong, as corporate science so often is, contamination of whole regions could be the far reaching effect. Monsanto’s environmental record is like looking at a booking sheet for a career criminal for one thing. More importantly in these decision making processes, corporate science, and particularly that of Monsanto, once promoted the idea that DDT was safe. Think about this. these people are the same ones who developed and manufactured Agent Orange. When will we stop being governed by corporate politics?